Bagdad, Asharq Al-Awsat- Outgoing British Ambassador to Iraq Dominic Asquith has accused Iraq’s neighboring countries of trying to create chaos and continue the cycle of violence in the country in order to protect their interests by being lax and allowing foreign fighters to enter Iraq illegally through their common borders.
The Ambassador believes that these neighboring countries do not want the Iraqi democratic experiment to succeed out of fear of it spreading to their nations.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq al-Awsat before leaving his post in Iraq as the United Kingdom ambassador, Asquith said: “Neighboring countries must respect the Iraqi Government’s legitimacy and must deal with this elected government in a positive way and prevent their territories from being used in any action against Iraq and its government. At the same time, it is the Iraqi Government’s duty to reflect and demonstrate to the neighboring countries that it is working seriously and credibly to create a common vision that brings all the parties together and achieves everyone’s interests.”
The ambassador stressed that some countries are allowing foreign fighters to enter Iraq through their borders together with weapons supplied to them and the training they were given by elements inside these countries which are trying to impose a political situation in Iraq suitable for their own interests. He added: “Some of the equipment and weapons are used in other parts in the Middle East and we know that some of them were sold to some countries in the region.”
On the British forces’ role in Basra Governorate, Asquith said: “We handled the four southern governorates for which we were responsible very seriously and responsibly. Our aim from the start was to hand responsibility for these governorates back to the Iraqi authorities’ sovereignty and we succeeded in returning three governorates and will hand over the responsibility for the Basra Governorate to the Iraqis very soon.” He held the political parties in the governorate responsible for the deterioration of the situations in the city and said: “The diligent political discussion in Basra in particular steered clear of the general public interest and focused on the particularity of the city with the Shiite majority. Political rivalry between all the parties and political figures in the governorate is going to be stronger and more acute than their counterparts in the other governorates due to the governorate’s unique character and its economic position.”
Regarding the date for handing over security and leadership in the governorate to local Iraqi authorities, the British ambassador said: “It is a process similar to the ones that took place previously in the three southern governorates. The handover will be made in accordance with a joint decision by the multinational forces and the Iraqi Government when the two sides reach the conclusion that the security forces and local authorities are ready and capable of normalizing security in the governorate.” He added: “There is no time ceiling or specific date for this handover. When we reach a date for handing over the responsibility, then we will carry out the role of the observer of what happens in the governorate.”
On the accusations that the British Government is abandoning the local employees and translators who worked with its forces in Iraq, he said: “Neither Britain nor any of the coalition countries would have succeeded in its mission or did the work it had done without the help of the expertise and participation of local employees who worked with it during the past years and are still continuing to work.” He added: “In view of the dangers to which these employees are subjected and which are quite often greater than the dangers that we the foreigners are subjected to, my government is looking into and examining the issue of these people positively after I explained to it the importance I attach to this issue and our gratitude to them for the great services they have rendered to us.”